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Agile Leadership

Listen to ME!

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Listen to ME!

We were sharing stories in a recent CAL class. One of the students talked about the dynamics of release engineering related to gaining customer feedback. I shared a recent post from Jason Fried where he mentioned the importance of releasing a product to get feedback. Making the point that customers are the only arbiter whether you were on track or not in your MVP development path.

Here’s the link -

https://uxplanet.org/10-things-i-learned-from-jason-fried-about-building-products-5b6694ff02aa

The young man brought up his frustration with the phenomenon of organizations often listening more to outsiders rather then listening to their own teams or internal experts. Either in person or as names being dropped in conversation.

I sometimes liken this to bandwagon syndrome and I shared on that here –

http://rgalen.com/agile-training-news/2014/4/13/bandwagons-the-good-and-the-bad

I fully resonated with his comment. Being an outside consultant, I often hear “insiders” say something like:

I’ve been giving my leadership team that feedback for several (days, months, even years) and they’ve never really listened to me. You (consultant Bob) come in and say it once and suddenly everyone takes it seriously. 

Do you know how frustrating that is?

Actually, I do. And I’m incredibly empathetic to the point.

I remember when I was at iContact as their agile transformation coach, I had everyone’s ear for the first year or so. And my recommendations were easier to make and have them stick. But as time passed and everyone got used to my voice, stories, and style, they started to tune me out a bit.

So, this phenomenon happens to us all.

I started to bring in other thought leaders, either hired or invited, to mix the ideas (and voices) up a bit. And this seemed to work beautifully to break through the ice and renew some of my influence.

Wrapping up

While this can be a bit frustrating to folks on the inside, I think this is a natural occurrence in all organizations. Folks get accustomed to our voices and we need to augment them with book / article references, outside perspectives, and other ideas.

I think it’s simply the way it is. And you know…

It doesn’t matter where or who the idea comes from as long as the organization gains a flow of ideas, tries and experiments with new things, and continues to learn & evolve.

It’s all good.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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Building an Agile Coaching Team (redux)

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Building an Agile Coaching Team (redux)

Awhile ago, I’d written a blog post about the lack of an agile engagement having a cohesive coaching team. But later it dawned on me that I’ve never shared what an agile coaching team might look like.

Given that inspiration, I spent some time developing the first version of this post in which I discussed aspects of creating (finding, forming, and building) a great team of coaches for a larger-scale, agile transformation initiative.

Since then, I’ve updated my experience and renewed my focus on this important topic. I’ve also developed some additional posts that support the ideas. So, I thought I’d share an update with everyone.

Here’s a link to the original post. And let’s explore it again, below:

Are they followers?

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Checking for Safety

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Checking for Safety

Safety is a hot topic in agile contexts today. Continuously begging the question – 

Is it safe?

With a nod to the film Marathon Man. Safety is incredibly relevant to the level of true agile performance at a team level.

In the following post, Joshua Kerievsky mentioned a technique originated by Norm Kerth that explores ways to “check for” safety.

https://medium.com/@JoshuaKerievsky/norm-kerths-safety-poll-bcccd5be6e44

While this may be a relatively short post, it’s an important one. And this is NOT simply focused on safety at a team level. It’s also applicable for all levels of the organization.

I also really like that Josh gives a nod to Norm. A true pioneer in this space!

Norm wrote the book Project Retrospectives, which is a foundation for nearly all of the agile retrospective advice (books, articles, etc.) that followed it. I don’t think he gets enough credit for this important work.

Anyway, please read the post and renew your focus on safety awareness within your teams.

Stay agile my friends,

Bob.

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Revisiting Agile Teams

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Revisiting Agile Teams

Revisiting Agile TeamsThis post is inspired by this article by Derek Huether - https://medium.com/@derekhuether/stable-teams-should-be-non-negotiable-59af0972f77

His is the sort of the position I used to have. However, I’ve been rethinking my position over the last few years. Not that I’m moving away from honoring the team. I’ll always do that. 

But I’ve started to think that a little adversity isn’t necessarily bad for a team.

I want to use this post as an update to my writings about agile teams. The following post best captures my thoughts – http://rgalen.com/agile-training-news/2018/3/5/stop-norming-performing

Back to Derek’s point

Derek makes 3 key points in the article:

  1. Teams that stay together are more productive.             (more stories)

  2. Teams that stay together are more predictable.             (higher throughput)

  3. Teams that say together are more responsive.               (less time in process)

And he supports those conclusions with data from Larry Maccherone while he was with Rally/CA and reviewing data collected through their tooling. Another key point Derek makes is against the frequent reorganizations that run rampant in many companies. That they undermine all three aspects.

I’m not going to challenge the data or Derek’s key point. Let’s assume that everything is right. That we want to focus on team productivity. However, I think there are things to consider equally (and perhaps even more importantly) than productivity.

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Project vs. Product – Organizational Focus

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Project vs. Product – Organizational Focus

Sometimes my clients ask me which are the best organization structures that support a move to agile approaches. There are many ways to characterize their organizational structure and focus, but a common view I use is this:

Are they aligned as a Project-based organization or a Product-based one?

You can move to agile methods with either focus, but I think a Product-based focus makes it much easier. Let’s explore the dynamics of each. This will help you determine where your organization currently resides AND how you might want to shift your focus if you’re thinking about agility.

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What IS your Legacy?

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What IS your Legacy?

I spent over 10 years working at a company in Connecticut called Micrognosis. I wrote about an aspect of my experience there in this post.  

During my tenure at Micrognosis we delivered many, many products and projects. We made millions of dollars on our technologies and our customers were fairly happy with our efforts. All of this happened in the span from 1986 – 1996. If you asked me today whether anyone, and I mean anyone, really cares about the efforts we made (products, effort, blood-sweat-tears, etc.), I’d say no.

One of the hidden factors in all of our legacies, and I know technologists don’t want to hear this, is that what we’re working on really doesn’t matter in the long term. No matter what you’re working on!

For example, Netflix or Google or Spotify of today really won’t matter (technically) 20 years from now. Sure, they’ll be historical notes about them on Wikipedia, but the products themselves won’t matter.

So, what does matter?

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The Leadership Circle – Initial Thoughts…

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The Leadership Circle – Initial Thoughts…

Late last year I took the Leadership Circle Profile certification class with Shahmeen Sadiq. It was a 3-day class for the core Leadership Circle Profile and then a 1-day follow-up for the Leadership Culture Survey.

I was looking for an instrument (360-degree tool) to use in my Certified Agile Leadership (CAL I & II) workshops to provide insights for leaders making the shift towards a more agile mindset. I’d been using Bill Joiner’s, Leadership Agility tool and I found it unwieldy for my purposes in the class.

Well, after four days, I’m excited about my new tools. I believe the LCP is a great tool for individually coaching leaders. And I’m even more excited about the LCS and how it will nicely dovetail into my private CAL I classes.

The Leadership Circle

I can’t do the instruments/surveys justice in a short blog post. What I will say is that the focus is on showing us the balance between our reactive tendencies and our creative competencies. Reactive focuses more on controlling and managing our teams. While creative attempts to achieve results by building and leveraging our teams’ capabilities.

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Creating Business Agility

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Creating Business Agility

My colleague and friend, Anthony Mersino runs VitalityChicago. And agile coaching and training firm in, you guessed it, Chicago. He recently shared a post about 3 Key Steps that leaders should be taking to create business agility. The steps are: 

  1. Get Executive Buy-in and Agile Mindset

  2. Agile Leaders Should Get the Right Mix of Talent

  3. Foster an Agile Friendly Culture and Organizational Structure

While I really like Anthony’s 3 Key Steps, I’d like to add to or augment them…just a little bit.

For #1

In my experience, there’s a HUGE difference between getting buy-in and achieving an agile mindset. Most executives have a modicum of buy-in. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be embarking on an agile journey. However, achieving an agile mindset is different.

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What is Business Agility?

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What is Business Agility?

I was approached to speak at a startup event for a local Business Agility Institute user group here in the Raleigh/Durham area. I was quite pleased to be approached and am more than willing to present an agile topic to the group. 

But the request made me think…

I’ve been engaged in agile approaches for nearly twenty years. So, I have quite a lot of experience with the core methods, practices, scaling, agile leadership, cultures, etc. But what the heck is “Business Agility” and what sorts of topics would that group be interested in?

The answer escaped me and I realized I had to do some research.

Basic Definitions

Here’s what CA (Rally Software) had to say regarding a definition and 3 key aspects:

A company’s way to sense and respond to change proactively and with confidence to deliver business value—faster than the competition—as a matter of everyday business.

1.     It’s making the customer the central focus of your organization

2.     It’s driving value faster, better, and more efficiently

3.     It’s transforming how your business operates to achieve successful outcomes

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Building a First Team

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Building a First Team

During the years 2009 – 2012, I worked at a small company called iContact here in the Raleigh/Durham area. iContact had developed an email marketing, SaaS application that competed (still does) with the likes of Constant Contact and MailChimp. 

Ryan Allis was our CEO at the time and he was very innovative when it came to organizational change & evolution and leadership development. He happened to read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni at that time, and became enamored with the ideas contained within.

At the same time, we were adopting agile (Scrum, Kanban, and Scrum of Scrums for scaling) across the organization. Quite successfully, I might add. So, the two efforts naturally converged. And I was pleasantly surprised how well our Agile efforts and the 5 Dysfunctions blended together. That’s really what this article is all about.

5 Dysfunctions & Agile, like Peanut Butter and…

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